Doug Scott was destined, it seems, to become a police chief -- three times.

Most police officers get only one shot at running a department. But Scott, a 46-year-old father of two, has been chief in both Fairfax County and Fairfax City and is about to take over the top cop job in Arlington County.

"I'm thrilled to have Doug back in law enforcement and back as a chief, especially in Northern Virginia, where we can work together again," said Fairfax County Police Chief Thomas Manger. "He'll be a great fit for Arlington. I know that he missed police work a great deal while he was out of it. I think he realizes now where his heart really is."

Scott, who left the Fairfax City chief's job three years ago to become assistant inspector general for program integrity at the Interior Department, realized just how much he missed being a cop on Sept. 11, 2001. Driving to work past the Pentagon, where hundreds of law enforcement officials were collecting evidence after the terrorist attack, made him yearn to be there with them.

"I felt I had something to give," Scott said. "I wanted to run out and volunteer. I knew then that'd I'd go back."

It was a turning point for Scott, who began looking for a way to get back into uniform. He applied for -- and tentatively was given -- the police chief job in Durham, N.C., last fall, but could not reach a final contract agreement with city officials, he said. The next month, Arlington Police Chief Edward A. Flynn announced that he was resigning to become Massachusetts secretary of public safety. "I jumped right on this one," Scott said.

Scott especially relished the idea of becoming a chief again in Northern Virginia, where he grew up and started his police career as a cadet in Fairfax County. He retired from Fairfax County in 1998, after 23 years with the department. He has forged relationships with many public safety officials in the area, including Manger, so he can concentrate on getting to know the 362 officers and 130 civilians in the department.

Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee wanted someone with Scott's experience who could hit the ground running if, for instance, there was another terrorist attack his second day on the job.

"I was looking for someone who could build on the national reputation the previous chief developed for us," Carlee said. "He's been a chief. He knows the region. His references were extraordinary."

What Carlee did not want was "a change agent," which was what Flynn was hired to be, he said. He wanted someone who would embrace Flynn's philosophy of community policing.

Before making a final decision, Carlee invited Scott to police headquarters to check it out. At the same time, "I wanted the rank and file to call all their buddies in Fairfax to find out if there were any concerns," Carlee said. "I wanted to know upfront. Then I went through and talked to everybody. I don't want surprises later. . . . Our reports were that he is very low-key, very honest. He doesn't have a huge ego investment in it. It isn't all about Doug."

Sgt. Ken Dennis, past president of the Arlington Coalition of Police who helped in the selection process, said he is optimistic about the new chief. "Every relationship goes through a honeymoon period," he said. "We'll see how things settle in. At least I'd hope he'd listen to a lot of people."

Scott said that's exactly what he plans to do, especially in the first few months on the job, which begins on April 21. Even then, he says he will not make changes simply for the sake of putting his personal stamp on the department.

"I see a smooth-running department," Scott said. "I'm going to be assessing, not imposing my personal style."

While Flynn embraced the national spotlight and was sought after by the media for his big-picture view of the world, Scott said he's more comfortable just hanging out with the troops. He prides himself on his ability to make tough decisions and to spot talent within an organization.

When not working, he likes to spend time with his family -- wife Terry, 44; daughter Kellen, 21, who's in college; and son Keith, 13 -- at their home in Fairfax County. An avid sports fan, Scott coached his children's soccer, basketball and baseball teams and attends as many Potomac Cannons baseball games as he can fit into his schedule.

He played sports at Hayfield High School and chose police work when he wasn't offered an athletic scholarship to college. "I'm a frustrated athlete," he said.

Scott can often be found puttering around the Occoquan River in his 19-foot boat or working on his master's degree in public administration at George Mason University. He plans to become a fixture in Arlington for 10 years or more, he said. "I'm already looking forward to going to work," he said.

Doug Scott, Arlington's new police chief, shown in his new office, is working on a degree in public administration from George Mason University. He grew up in Northern Virginia and has headed police departments here twice.